The criminals responsible for illegal logging and illicit timber trafficking are not just destroying biodiversity but they also threaten the livelihoods of those reliant on forest resources. For example, criminal land clearing can cause landslides and deny forest-dependent communities access to food, medicine and fuel.
From a law enforcement perspective, forestry crime involves criminal activity in the forestry sector, covering the entire supply chain, from harvest and transportation to processing and selling. It also refers to criminal offences that facilitate such activity, including document fraud, corruption and money laundering.
Forestry crime is:
- The illegal exploitation of high-value endangered wood species (many of which are now CITES listed)
- Illegal logging in protected areas, on indigenous lands or outside concession boundaries
- Laundering of illegal harvested wood through plantation and agricultural front companies
- Document fraud and misdeclarations to conceal illegal activity and tax evasion.
Both illegal logging and the international trade in illicitly harvested timber have a serious economic, social and environmental impact. For example:
- It is estimated that such international crimes account for 15-30 per cent of all timber traded globally.
- The trade of illegally logged timber has an estimated value of between USD 51-152 billion annually, representing a major loss in tax revenues.
- Illegal logging is responsible for deforestation, habitat loss, species extinction, and contributes to global warming.
- Illicit proceeds from forestry crime may be used to fund conflicts.
The INTERPOL Forestry Crime team supports law enforcement working across the entire timber supply chain to disrupt international criminal networks. Specifically, we assist member countries by:
- Identifying the modus operandi and trafficking routes;
- enhancing intelligence exchange;
- coordinating cross-border operations and investigations that target networks involved in forestry crimes.
Furthermore, we conduct extensive training and capacity building for law enforcement agencies, with regional and national programmes in Asia, Europe and the Americas. We also help civil society organizations link up with law enforcement to share intelligence on illegal logging and other forestry crimes.
Operation Thunder (2021)
Operation Thunder 2021 was a global operation against wildlife and timber crime jointly organized with the World Customs Organization (WCO). It involved customs, police, financial intelligence units and wildlife and forestry enforcement agencies in 118 countries.
It resulted in worldwide arrests and investigations linked to the illegal trading, processing, exporting and importing of CITES-listed wildlife and forestry products. Although the majority of top seizure numbers related to wildlife products, headline figures for timber seizures were notable as well. The largest seizure in this respect was for 75,320 kg of timber, including 313 m3 of rosewood.
INTERPOL in collaboration with the WCO identified some 300 suspects, along with emerging trends and trafficking routes.
Operation Amazonas IV (2018)
Building on all of the previous Amazonas operations, INTERPOL planned Operation Amazonas IV as an intensive intelligence-led operation. The aim was to identify and dismantle international criminal networks involved in the illegal trade of timber from Central and South America. It resulted in the seizure of close to 12,000m3 of timber and the arrest of 209 individuals.
Operation Amazonas III (2017)
Operation Amazonas III was a country-led enforcement operation tackling illegal logging and forestry crimes with specialized units from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. One of its main objectives was to continue transnational investigations of prior and present cases related to illegal logging and illegal timber trade. It resulted in an estimated seizure of 12,000 m3 with an estimated value of USD 10 million. 142 individuals were arrested and several INTERPOL notices were issued.
Operation LEAD (2017)
Operation LEAD was a country-led law enforcement operation, targeting forestry and associated crimes in the Mekong region. It involved Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. INTERPOL played a leadership role in enabling multi-agency collaboration and systematic intelligence sharing between agencies.
As part of this Operation, INTERPOL also provided support in terms of criminal analysis d to member countries. Participating countries reported close to 700 cases of forestry crime, which resulted in the seizure of an estimated 4,737m3 of illegal timber and the arrest of 242 individuals. An INTERPOL Purple Notice was also issued as a result of the operation.
Forestry Crime Working Group
Our Forestry Crime Working Group is a group of experts who provide strategic advice to improve the effectiveness of law enforcement operations in the forestry sector. The group has initiated several successful operations, including Operation Amazonas II (2015) and Operation Log (2015). It develops guidelines and methodologies, and also organizes training for a range of players in forestry crime enforcement, from government agencies to forest-dependent rural communities.
Sharing information on crime
One of INTERPOL’s most important functions is to help police in its member countries share critical crime-related information using our system of international notices.
Police can use our notices to alert law enforcement in other countries of potential threats, or to ask for assistance in solving crimes.
Regional Investigative and Analytical Case Meetings (RIACM)
INTERPOL facilitates investigative and analytical case meetings to allow investigators from different countries and regions to discuss transnational cases of mutual interest and share information.
Operational Support Teams (OST)
INTERPOL can provide case-specific technical support through the deployment of Operational Support Teams. These teams consist of officers and analysts with specialized forensic, analytical and technical skills and crime area expertise who support national law enforcement authorities in ongoing investigations.
Criminal Intelligence Analysis
Criminal intelligence analysis supports the decision-making process for investigators, managers and other law enforcement to make the most efficient and effective use of their limited resources and ensure an intelligence-led policing approach.
The INTERPOL Environmental Security Programme produces analytical reports and provides the necessary criminal intelligence analysis to take informed and decisive enforcement action.
Illicit Markets Analysis File
The Illicit Markets Analysis File is a criminal intelligence database created for the collection of data from INTERPOL Member Countries.
This database holds intelligence specifically related to transnational organized crime in the fields of environmental, illicit goods and global health issues.